I’ve been trying out several online backup tools. I plan to write in more detail about my experiences with each one later, but here is an overview.
My wife and I travel quite a bit. While I can take an extra hard drive with us for backups, but this seems a bit pointless since the biggest threat to my equipment is probably theft. If someone breaks into my hotel room and steals my laptop, they probably aren’t going to overlook an external hard drive. I need a solution that will give me quick access to all my information if my computer is stolen or damaged.
Here are three services I’ve tried. If you have any suggestions of other services I should check out please post them in the comments.
This would seem like the ideal solution, but until recently .mac accounts only came with 1 GB of storage space. They recently upped this to 10 GB. This is more useful, but it doesn’t take long to fill it up. On the plus side of things, it can be scheduled to run automatically to keep your backup up-to-date.
The .mac Backup software will also allow you to backup to DVDs, CDs and external HDs. So I could conceivably come up with a plan that backs large files that don’t change much up to external media while storing all of my documents that are smaller but change frequently online.
As I move toward a paperless office, my storage needs are just going to go up and I don’t think .mac Backup is going to be able to keep pace. I’m still using it for backing up certain documents just for added redundancy, but I’m not using it as my main backup system.
Mozy is an interesting idea. For about $5 per month you can backup everything on your computer. (I have heard that in reality they have a limit of 50 GB of online storage space.) Mozy has a nice looking client that installs and lets you setup your backup to run automatically. However, I was never able to get it to backup more than about 20MB at a time. After weeks of emailing them for support I finally gave up. I have heard that their Windows product is much more stable, but I haven’t tested it. Support said that other OS X users were not having problems.
If you have a PC this might be worth looking into as it is fairly inexpensive.
They also offer a business class service that can backup databases and email servers.
Jungle Disk and Amazon S3
Jungle Disk doesn’t actually store any of your data. They just make a product that allows you to upload your data to Amazon S3. Amazon S3 is a storage service with a pay-as-you-go pricing setup. You pay $0.15 per GB of storage space. So 20 GB of storage will cost you about $3. You also have to pay for your transfers. That is an additional $0.10 per GB transfered into the system and $0.18 per GB transfered out. There is also a $0.01 charge for each PUT, GET, or LIST request.
Jungle Disk automatically keeps track of what changes on your system and uploads a new version of the file whenever necessary to keep the online copy up todate. If make changes to huge files every day, you’ll pay more than if you make changes to small files because the entire file has to be uploaded–not just the changes.
My experience in uploading around 20 GB of data and running a backup for about a week was in the $15 range for the month. Obviously a good deal of the expense is just getting the data uploaded the first time. After the first month I’d expect to pay $5 to $10 per month to Amazon.
The Jungle Disk program is $20 and that gives you a license to install it on as many computers as you like. It works with Windows, Linux and Mac so it is a pretty good deal if you have multiple machines.
Jungle Disk recently came out with an added service that gives you additional capabilities. Most notable is the block level backup. If you change a file the software will figure out what is different between the file on your computer and the one on the server and upload just the changes. If you make a lot of changes to large files this can really reduce the amount of bandwidth required to keep the server in sync.
Don’t forget if you have any suggestions of other services to try, I’d love to hear about them.
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Arjun Muralidharan says
Online backups are a great idea, but you need the bandwidth to make it a realistic option.
I personally prefer the home hard drive, and while your at it, get a RAID system sicne OS X has such excellent support for it.
This way 2 or even 3 out of 4 drives can fail and you still have your data thanks to checksums.
Mike Nash says
I use and love carbonite for online backup. $50/year for unlimited data. For day to day file sharing between work / home as well as backup I use SugarSync.
Mike Nash says
I have also heard a lot of good things on FolderShare, but have not tried myself. here are links to products mentioned:
I have been using Carbonite. I also back up to an external hard drive. Carbonite backs up everything and then does incremental backups. Carbonite has good software and starts to backup a file 10 minutes after it is changed. It is fixed price. It will not backup external hard drives.
I have hundreds of GB on my Web server, so I am going to switch to a product that allows FTP backup to my Web server.
Mark Shead says
@Martin – Thinks for the link. I haven’t heard of that one before.
@Arjun – The bandwidth is usually only an issue for your first backup. Once everything is backed up, you probably only change a couple hundred megs each day. Jungle Disk is taking about 15 days to backup my current hard drive, but I have a really slow upload speed. You can speed things up if you have access to a fast upload connection–like a univeristy–for a few hours (or days).
I still keep my hard drive backup, but I like the online option because it works in the background while I’m traveling. If I’m on the road for a few weeks it is nice to know that I’ll have copies of all my important files if something bad happens. I suppose I could use the online backup just for My Doucuments because those are the files that are likely to change frequently and be vital for recovery and then rely on my hard drive backup for everything else.
@Mike – I will look into Carbonite. I can’t seem to get their website to load this morning for some reason. The $50 per year might be cheaper than Jungle Disk for the amount of data I have.
@Les – If you have a lot of space on a server you might look into using rsync.
Michael Harrison says
I started using Mozy when they announced their Mac beta last year, and while they’ve certainly had some growing pains, we’re now up and running with a steady backup every night. I think we’re in the 25gb range now, with home videos and photographs and everything.
The interface isn’t very intuitive, and error messages are clear as mud. I wasn’t sure, the morning after, whether my back up had progressed, or if it had just timed out. I just gave up on backing up my wife’s Macbook, because she just couldn’t wrap her head around the thing.
If they could develop a simpler interface that soothes the paranoid mind of a backer-upper (think Time Machine), I think they’d be onto something.
I use Mozy Home on a PC and it’s wonderful. Pretty much effortless.
I also love Mozy. I use the free version as an extra-extra back up, only to back up a few *very important* folders (i.e. my dissertation– one can never have too many back ups of that!). I have the app installed and set to back up the specific folders twice a day (8am and 8pm) and it works effortlessly. I don’t even know when it is running. I’m impressed!
What about rsync.net – seems to support lots of protocols.
I have been using Zoogmo. You just invite your friends and you each give each other some space on your computers and Zoogmo does the rest. It runs in the background and automatically backs up your files. The best thing is that it is unlimited and totally free.
Computer Backup says
ive been using the mozy backup for quite some time now and i havent had any problems, everything important i have is safe and secure – definitely worth the $5 a month
Mark Shead says
I’m glad to hear the Mozy is working well for other people. I may have to check it out again in the future.
Zoogmo sounds like a very interesting service. I saw something similar years ago, but lost track of the company. I like the idea of backing up to your friends computers.
rsync.net looks nice, but is a little pricey compared with Mozy and Jungle Disk if you have more than 5 or 6 GB of data.
Carolyn B. says
I use Carbonite but may switch at the end of my year’s subscription. It takes a CRAZY lot of memory to run in the background, even if the program is “paused” or “disabled.” It also throttles the amount of files it will upload during that first massive backup of files, so it took me days and days for that first load. Otherwise, it is super easy and may be a reasonable option for others with fewer files than me (or faster computers) — I’d love to hear your comments. They have a 15-day free trial, fyi.